In the past half hour, the Scottish Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, announced to the Scottish Parliament:
“Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland”.
To applause in the chamber, Mr Wheelhouse said:
“The conclusion of the Scottish Government is that we will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.,
“We have today written to local authorities across Scotland to make clear that the directions that gave effect to the moratorium [introduced in January 1015] remain in place indefinitely.
“We will use planning powers to ensure that any unconventional oil and gas application are considered in line with our position of not supporting unconventional oil and gas.”
He said the action was:
“Sufficient to ban the extraction of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.”
It was a decision, he said, taken in the best interests of the people of the country as a whole.
“We have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change and an economic responsibility to prepare Scotland for new low carbon opportunities.”
“No social licence”
Mr Wheelhouse said:
“In those communities that would be most affected there is no social licence for unconventional oil and gas to be taken forward at this time.
“And the research we have conducted does not provide a strong enough basis from which to adequately address those communities’ concerns.”
Mr Wheelhouse said 60,535 people had responded to the Scottish Government consultation. More than 99% of them had opposed fracking.
More than 52,000 responses were campaign responses or petitions and more than 8,000 were substantive replies.
Of the substantive responses which also provided a postcode, more than two-thirds were from the 13 Scottish local authority areas with significant shale oil and gas reserves.
Mr Wheelhouse said his decision was based on the responses to the consultation and research findings and advice.
He said he was concerned about the insufficient evidence on health impacts and he drew attention to the conclusion from KPMG that under its central scenario that unconventional oil and gas could represent 0.1% of the Scottish GDP.
Mr Wheelhouse also said the Committee on Climate Change had concluded that unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland would make meeting existing climate change targets more challenging. Emissions would have to be offset from other areas of the Scottish economy, he said.
The industry would be concentrated in former coalfield and oil shale areas, which were some of the most densely populated areas of Scotland, he said.
“Communities across Scotland, particularly in areas where developments could take place, have yet to be convinced that there is a strong enough case of national economic importance when balanced against the risk of disruption they anticipate on matters such as transport, risk of pollution and impacts on our general health and wellbeing”.
“Decision not taken lightly”
The decision was the result of a careful and comprehensive evidence gathering, he said.
“We have not taken the process or the decision lightly.”
He said the Scottish Government continued to support chemical manufacturing, a major user of oil and gas, and the country’s other industries.
The decision is to be included in the Scottish Government’s energy strategy, to be published in December.
The parliament is expected to vote on the ban shortly after the Scottish Parliament recess coming up.